Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Respect, Hell!

Business as Usual for the State-Sponsored Parties! Or so says the End....

Fla. Voter Registration Law Blocked

Aug 28, 6:31 PM (ET)


MIAMI (AP) - A federal judge on Monday struck down a Florida law that imposes hefty fines on third parties that take too long to submit voter registration forms, saying it threatens free speech rights and unfairly exempts political parties.

The law took effect Jan. 1 and has been blamed by critics for blocking voter registration drives because of huge financial risk.

The law imposes a fine of $250 for each form submitted to election officials more than 10 days after it is collected from an individual. Penalties can reach $5,000 for each form that is collected but never submitted.

"If third-party voter registration organizations permanently cease their voter registration efforts, Florida citizens will be stripped of an important means and choice of registering to vote and of associating with one another," U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz wrote.

The law also "unconstitutionally discriminates" against third-party registration groups because it does not apply to political parties, Seitz added.

In addition to the Democratic and Republican parties, Florida law recognizes 23 parties including the American Poor People Party, the Green Party of Florida, the Prohibition Party and the Surfers Party of America.

"In effect, the law would have imposed a tax on democracy and a tax on democratic participation," said attorney Craig Siegel.

The law was passed in 2004. Attorneys for the state had argued that the Legislature was within its powers to single out third-party groups because of evidence of past registration problems.

The ruling "will send a signal to officials in Florida and other states that you cannot erect unreasonable barriers to voter registration," said Wendy Weiser, co-counsel for the third-party groups and deputy director of the Democracy Program at the New York University law school's Brennan Center for Justice.

Voter registration drives now can begin ahead of the Nov. 7 general election, several groups said. Plaintiffs included the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida AFL-CIO.

The deadline for voter registration applications for this year's general election is Oct. 10. The deadline for next week's primary has already passed.

"At this point, we respectfully disagree with the ruling and plan to take the issue up on appeal," said Sterling Ivey, spokesman for the Florida secretary of state.


(Nod to KH, a friend of liberty)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

As Promised: Spy Conference Cheers--Where Nobody Knows Your Name

As promised earlier....

Wednesday 9:08AM
My contact’s voice came on the radio and the codeword was spoken,

“This Wednesday to Thursday the International Spy Conference will be held in Raleigh at the NC Museum of History. Tickets are still available. For more information, please go to www.ncmuseumofhistory.org or call 962-9862. This is WUNC 91.5 Chapel Hill, 89.5 Rocky mount…”

I had been activated. From the scant information in the brief, I began formulating my plan. First I assembled the knowns.

1. A conference for international spies was being held.
2. It was being held in Raleigh.

From there, I entered into the speculative conjecture, jotting down questions as they arose.

1. What kind of spy would go to a spy conference?
2. What kind of spy would go to a spy conference in Raleigh?
3. Will there be intrigue?

I quickly stopped pontificating. It could go on all day and really, no one would be any closer to the truth. Thus I steeled my resolve. I was the only one who could provide a definitive version of the truth. Yes. This was my mission. I was going to infiltrate the spy conference.
It was Wednesday morning 9:23AM. A quick look at the conference agenda showed me my target of opportunity: The gala cocktail reception on Thursday evening. Bingo. It presented the perfect opportunity to mingle amongst the spies, a chance to see past the tuxedos and martinis, a chance to determine if any of them were actually remotely attractive. I sure hoped so.
I didn’t care what vile tricks I played, what disguises I donned, what women I seduced, I was going into this gala, all else be damned. The next twenty-four hours were spent planning. I researched this year’s conference topic: Fidel Castro. I read the dossiers of all the event organizers, I used my alias as a magazine reporter to request press passes, and should all else failed, I prepared my waiter disguise.
The plan was arduous, highly complex, and extremely thorough. I submitted it to my station chief before making my final preparations. His reply came just as I was wiring myself up with my hidden recorder.

“I applaud, humbly. An excellent plan. Part of the charm of which....
...is that it will almost certainly fail in wonderful fashion,” he wrote.

Ha, we’ll see about that, I thought, as I tucked the spare waiter shirt, lapel camera, and forged name badge into my pack.

Zero hour approached. My accomplice and I parked the car a few blocks east of the venue after having made several reconnaissance passes. The plan was simple. We would walk through the front door and demand press passes. If that failed, on my cue, she would faint causing a marvelous diversion. Should both plan A and B fail, I would hastily retreat behind the building to don my waiter guise. If that too failed, then I was left with my last resort: bribery. I was all out of grappling hooks dammit.

We approached the perimeter. Previous surveillance had already spotted a significant police presence. Unmarked black cars were hastily delivering their “cargo” to the main entrance before disappearing into the night. Halfway up the steps, I spotted the first obstacle, a guard at the perimeter. It was go time.
The guard stopped us as we neared.
“Can I help you,” he questioned.
“Uh, Um, We’re uh here for the spy gala,” I hastily improvised.
“Oh, go right on in,” he answered, pulling the door open.
We were in. An excellent plan indeed.
A quick glance at the surroundings told me everything I needed to know. Big burly men in tan suits wearing panama hats, svelte suave gents in charcoal suits, dames in evening wear, indoor palm trees, and a Latin jazz combo. The waiters were dressed in khakis, as per the Cuban theme. Damnit why hadn’t I thought of that. My contingency plan was blown.
I tried to compose myself as I made out the rest of the environment. A bar in the center dished out mojitos and cigars. As a consolation to my previous failures, I made a mental note to hit that up hard.
But we weren’t out of the woods yet. A lady in a red dress greeted us in the reception area.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“We’re uh, here to cover the gala for Matter Magazine,” I said assuredly. “I talked to this afternoon, she said it’d be fine for us to come,” I added, name dropping one of the conference planners.
“Oh ok, sure,” the lady said. She handed us nametags with our names written on it. And then I saw it. The entire table was covered with nametags of all the guests yet to arrive. FOOLS! I said to myself jubilantly. Now your identities shall be known. To me! I hastily snapped a few pictures with my hidden camera. HQ would definitely be interested in this list of names I held before me.

The lady returned back to the table and left us to our own devices. I activated my hidden recorder. Testing testing, I said to myself, making sure all was functional. Good, I thought.
I turned to my accomplice, “Alright,” I began, “We need to talk to every weird person in sight and we gotta find out who’s a spy. And if they say they’re not a spy, that’s just spy talk for of course I’m a spy. So don’t take no for an answer, and get out as much information as possible.”
We split up. She headed toward a group of well-dressed gentleman calmly discussing international politics as they cooled themselves with Castro fans (see attached photo).

And, note the striking likeness of the Castro fan to the real Castro; can it be a coincidence?

I think not. When you have worked for the "Company" as long as I have, you stop believing in coincidence. Hell, you stop believing in anything.

Avoiding both the Castro fans and the fans of Castro, I headed for the bar. On my way, I saw a large man in a beige suit commanding the attention of a group of ladies. He waved a cigar around violently as he animated his speech. A man clad entirely in black with a long full beard reaching his stomach stalked silently in the corner. Serious spy material. Possibly Mossad, I thought.
There were groups dispersed throughout the mezzanine, I noticed some academic looking types congregating by the buffet. Just as I reached the bar, an elderly man and his wife cut me off.
“Two vodka tonics!” He shouted in a raspy voice. As the bartender obliged their order, I heard the wife remark, “Stop hogging up the bar and lets go dancing!”

They toddled off through the potted palms onto the dance floor. The band was riffing out a halfhearted rumba as tipsy spy couples danced. It was almost too much. I ordered a scotch and soda from the bar. Before taking my first sip, I casually asked the bartender if he had figured out who was and who wasn’t a spy.
“It’s hard to tell,” he said, “but I’m pretty sure that British guy over there is a spy.”

I quickly turned to see a tall British fellow in chummy conversation with a few other folks. An attractive brunette leaned on his side. I coughed and damn near choked on my drink.
I’m better than that, I said to myself, trying to regain my composure. I threw down half the drink in the next gulp and wiped my lips. I made my way for a nervous looking lady sitting by herself at the edge of the party. The night was about to unfold. It was to be spectacular.

(Raleigh Spy Conference Web Site)

The Raleigh Spy Conference

I am going to be syndicating the spy/writing stylings of one of Duke's finest and newest alumni. I am not at liberty to reveal his name, but his initials are "Charles Lin."

CL wanted some advice on how to crash the Raleigh International Spy Conference. He called me, one of the highest compliments I have ever received. He and I thought of a plan for safely crashing the door without using money, violence, the truth, or actual press credentials. The plan didn't work, of course. But he made it anyway, and....well, I'll let him tell the story in the coming week or so.

Watch this space for "Spy Conference Cheers: Where Noboby Knows Your Name"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

SK lays down some smack

Over on CSS, SK does some analysis.

I'm not sure he is entirely correct, but I am very sure he is not entirely wrong....

Baseball Rules

Saw two MLB games this past weekend, while at (ahem) the APSA meetings.

1. Phillies v. Braves, at the Phillies new ballpark. Very nice. We had good seats, and excellent company, six of us. Nice day. And, got to see Ryan Howard, the Philly nonpareil, hit THREE homers. First one was a line drive, the second a moon shot that traveled at least 450 feet before coming down in a far concourse in the bullpen in dead center, and the last something in between, still a tremendous homer.

Since I am becoming something of conniseur of "fan on the field" incidents (see this description, my favorite of all time fan on the field story), I should relate what happened next.

Ryan Howard comes up for his fourth at bat. A drunk fan, thickly built from years of Pat's, jumps onto the field, runs up near Howard from the third base side, and falls to his knees. Begins doing the full prostration bow, over and over. Police and security men converge from three sides. Obeisance man actually puts one hand behind back to be cuffed, and continues bowing routine with other hand for another few seconds. The guy, as far as I can tell, was not beaten. But, in contrast to the ChiSox incident, this guy did not put moves on security guys in the outfield, WHLE CARRYING A BEER, and injure one of them.

Anyway, Howard is clearly undone by this incident, and can only manage a line smash single. His day: 4-4, 13 total bases, 5 RBI, three runs scored.

Philllies are comfortably ahead, 6-3. But, suddenly, the Braves score 2 in the eigth, and 4 in the top of the ninth inning! Phillies down 7-6, great start by Moyer down the toidie.

Then, equally suddenly, Phillies come back! Score two in the bottom of the ninth to come back and win! As fine a ballgame, with fine company (even Shughie was there! And, always nice to see Renan...) on a fine day in a fine ballpark, as one could want. And Jimmy Rollins is an incredible athlete.

(I had not realized this, until I read the game wrap: Ortiz at one point got nine outs on 15 pitches. That is pitching at its finest. The perfect inning is not nine strikes. The perfect inning is three grounders. I wish I could convince my Carolina Cardinals that this is true. Hats off to Ortiz. Best pitching performance I have seen in person since I watched another Phillie, Steve Carlton, 2-hit my Cards back in 1983 at old Busch).

2. Next day, I went to another day game down in DC (at RFK, Nats v. Cards) with an old friend I hadn't seen in forever. Nats starter takes no hitter into the ninth, but Cards break it up. Third batter in the ninth is the great Pujols, who absolutely creams a curve ball into the upper deck in left center. Nats win it, though. Beautiful. Marquis pitched very well, but Ortiz deserved to win. We had great seats, right behind third base. Scott Rolen is an enormous man.

Oh, and did I mention I was at the APSA meetings? Actually went to the business meeting, and saw Robert Axelrod "installed" as the new Jefe Maximo. I'm not sure why, but going to the business meeting, which was brief, was really pretty fun. In spite of the outrageous dues and meeting registration (which together total $400 for me this year!), I have to admit I like APSA. Next year: Chicago! Should be an orgy of baseball, assuming the (a) Pale Hose, (b) Cubs (ick!) or (c) Brewers are home that weekend.

UPDATE: I am apparently not becoming a connoiseur of spellings of connoiseur, however.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Email Security

So I get the following email from one of the journals for which I am on the editorial board:

Dear Prof. Munger,

We appreciate you reviewing for the Journal of Rectal-Cranial Inversion. The journal will now be published by BANGALORE CORP. As the new editors we would like to invite you to go to our submission website, http://mc.manuscriptlosing software.com/jrci and update your account by using the following user id, munger@college.EDU. To retrieve your password, please enter your email address into the Password Help function on the log in page. For security purposes we have not included your password in this email.

We greatly value your time in the all important process of reviewing and look forward to working with you in the future.

Let us know if you have any further questions.

Prof. Thing One and Prof. Thing Two
Editors of JRCI

So, I go to the website, and enter my email address. I could see what was coming, but refused to believe it. And then it happened: the publisher website sent me an email....AN UNENCRYPTED EMAIL!...with my password.

Immediately, I send the editors an email, asking how an email from a publisher is more secure than an email from the editors, which would have saved me several minutes updating my account. Haven't heard back yet.....will advise.

UPDATE 1: Got this email from manuscript losing software program:

Dear Prof. Munger:

This e-mail has been automatically generated per your request.

Your USER ID is munger@college.EDU
Your single use password is bitemedo45
Please note that this password will expire on Sat, 9 Sep 2006 18:52:05 GMT / Sat, 9 Sep 2006 14:52:05 EST.
If this password has expired, you can generate a new one by entering your email address into the 'Password Help' function on your site log in page: http://mc.manuscriptlosingsoftware.com/jrci
When you log in with it you will be prompted to set a permanent password.

Yep, that's MUCH more secure than an email....

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

They Noticed His Discomfort

Don't poke the stolen money bag into your pants. Unless....well, just don't.

Orlando--A man was arrested and charged with bank robbery after a dye pack in the bills he is accused of taking exploded in the crotch of his pants. Officers responding to the bank's alarm stopped to question Kenneth Ray Brooks when they noticed his discomfort and the bright red dye on both his hands, police said.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

All About the Mass Transit

I'm up at the APSA meetings. In Philadelphia.

On Thursday, I thought I would come up here on the Amtrak. Given everything I had heard about bad service and lateness, seemed like a natural blog subject.

What a disappointment! Consider:

1. The train was supposed to leave Raleigh terminal at 5:40 am, didn't leave until 6:30am. A great start. But we ended up getting into the Philadelphia terminal at 2:20, about ten minutes late. Not bad.

2. And this was at the downtown terminal, mind you. About 6 blocks from my hotel. Made it to my panel at 4:15 very easily.

3. I had a roomette. Nice little bed up top, comfortable seats, my own little potty and sink. Plugs for laptop, free water and orange juice. All for $255 one way. A little pricey, but worth it. Arrived rested and happy. A regular ticket was only $55, which is fine. I was so sure we'd be ten hours late that I bought the roomette, and then didn't need it.

Well, there was one thing, lest you think I am losing my knack for bizarre retail experiences. Part of the first class ticket was "free meals." So, about 12:15, I go back to the dining car (right behind the first class car, so the tubbos in first class don't have to strain themselves).

I sit down, look up, and see why railroads are disappearing the U.S.: three middle-aged white guys are working the dining car, as waiters. Now, where have you seen three middle-aged guys working in a restaurant? Only in the very most expensive restaurants. Most places pay low wages, and so hire more women and minorities. But union work rules allow the railroads to pay top dollar for rude gorillas.

Union man #1 saunters up, and hands me a ticket. "Need your name, room number, and car number, chief." Monotone, no eye contact, a smirk. This is union work, so he doesn't actually to provide any real service. And being nice is beneath a railroad union man.

I fill out the little sheet. Hand it to him.

"So, what'll it be, sport?" Staring at the back of the car, where his two boys are cutting up and giggling. At least five other tables are awaiting service.

I try to order the chicken ceasar salad. He interrupts; "Nope."

Staring at him, I ask: "Why not?"

"Don't have it." Pleased with himself. He made me ask; points for him.

"All right," I said, and handed him the menu.

Now I have his attention, unintentionally. He goggles at me. "Look, sport: we don't have any salads. Look at your menu, and pick something else."

Me: "Sir, I'm not entirely stupid. I understood what you said. You have six menu items. Five are some sort of fried something on a bun, served with potato chips. One is a salad. Even with only six items, you can't be bothered to have them all available, at the BEGINNING of the lunch shift. So, no, I am not going to pick something else. I am going to finish my diet coke, and go back to my little room."

On the plus side, this was said in a level voice and not too loud. On the down side, and for reasons I still can't explain, I said this in an increasingly strong, and entirely fake, British accent. Changing from a southerner to a Brit in the course of diatribe does not help when you want to be taken seriously.

I think he thought I must be crazy. He took the menu gently, and said, "Sorry, sir" in the most polite voice he had used yet. I later realized that passing up fried food and potato chips (crisps, I should say, in my Angloglossiac dementia) was so foreign to him that he might actually have BELIEVED I was a Brit.

Sat and finished my soda. Hoped no one else would talk to me, since speaking in bad foreign accents accidentally is not something I am proud of. Each of the three guys would occasionally get up, the other two would sit, and the one "working" would go and pester a couple of passengers for about five minutes. "Everything okay here?" "You...you haven't brought our food yet." "Okay, good, I was just checking." Union guys must have their irony bone removed at a young age.

So...overall, the trip was a real solid B+. And if you bring your own food, probably would have been an A-. I am going to take the train again, for trips in the Eastern corridor.